It only took 33 years, but after watching a bootleg version of “Argo” smuggled into Iran last week, Navid Sheibani, a 55-year-old aspiring Iranian screenwriter, finally realized that the Irish producer he gave his screenplay to read 33 years ago was not a real movie producer, but actually covert CIA agent Tony Mendez, the man portrayed by Ben Affleck in the film.
According to Sheibani, who works as a barista when he’s not writing, he gave his comedy spec “I Ran from Iran” to whom he believed was Irish film producer Kevin Harkins, who was on a scouting trip in Iran for his sci-fi epic “Argo.” But the disappointed Sheibani never heard from him again.
“The fact that he said he’d read my script, should have been a dead giveaway he wasn’t a real producer,” Sheibani told Hollywood & Swine. “But then when he never got back to me with notes or returned my calls, I thought maybe he was a producer after all.”
In January 1980, Sheibani was putting the finishing touches on his most recent draft of “I Ran from Iran,” when he heard that Studio Six Productions was coming to Iran to scout locations for their upcoming film “Argo.” Like any good aspiring screenwriter, Sheibani managed to track down Mendez, who was in Iran on an undercover rescue mission posing as producer Kevin Harkins, and convinced him to read his screenplay.
For the next 33 years, Sheibani anxiously waited for a response from Mendez about his script, but it never came. Then last year, Sheibani discovered “Argo” was finally being released, and optimistically believed that the producer had finally gotten his passion project off the ground, and now might have time to focus on producing his script.
“I read ‘I Ran from Iran’ on the flight we escaped on,” Mendez told Hollywood & Swine. “It was horrible. That script was the most agonizing ordeal of the whole rescue mission.”
Sheibani was forced to keep his story a secret until now, because being a screenwriter is considered an even worse offense in Iran than being an unfaithful woman, homosexual or Jewish. Last year, several Iranians were stoned to death after it was discovered that they had entered the Nichol Fellowship Screenwriting contest.